The latter category is significant because of the growing popularity of physically demanding summertime vacation activities known as "extreme sports." A huge number of Americans now enjoy climbing walls of granite, kayaking down raging whitewater rapids, trekking through isolated, rugged wilderness areas or trying to ascend snow-capped mountains.
No such outings will ever be listed on our family calendar. My approach to outdoor adventure was heavily influenced by the late Marlin Perkins, venerable host of the classic TV series 'Wild Kingdom,' who usually waited in the canoe while his partner Jim plunged overboard and wrestled with the alligators. Like Marlin, I also prefer staying dry and not getting bitten by other species. I firmly believe the word "camping" means staying at a motel that has linoleum floors instead of carpeting.
Robust, daring travelers may consider my low threshold of discomfort a disgrace to our American pioneer heritage. I see it as one small pillar of support for independent motel operators, a vanishing breed of unsung entrepreneurs who carved out their own special niche in the national landscape.
Cheap motels can bring visitors to the brink of frontier living while maintaining a safety net of essential services. Sleeping bags may be needed to ensure a comfortable night's rest if the room is furnished with thin blankets and weak baseboard heating. The rustic feeling may be enhanced by a dingy, cramped shower stall and water pressure that hovers just above a slow trickle.
Basic wiring is also crucial for my style of camping. Having electrical outlets readily available means I can brew a cup of soup or cocoa immediately by using a small, plug-in heating coil instead of having to build a smoky, sputtering fire.
Roadside motor lodges took a tremendous public relations hit when Alfred Hitchcock released the original movie version of 'Psycho' in 1960. But anyone who watches the film closely cannot deny that Janet Leigh's room is clean, comfortable and tidy. In fact, if the Bates Motel hadn't been operated by crazy Anthony Perkins (NO relation to Marlin, thank goodness) I'm sure it would have rated at least two diamonds from the lodging experts at Triple-A.
Responsible campers are supposed to live gently on the land and the same philosophy can be applied to motel accommodations. I always throw trash in wastebaskets and pile used towels in the bathroom before leaving. This makes the housekeeper's job a little easier. And, to be honest, I don't want the staff to think I'm an inconsiderate slob who was raised by wolves and can't pick up after himself.
I have no quarrel with people who think my style of camping is lazy and dull. If your idea of outdoor fun is huddling in a snow cave while heating a can of chili with a butane lighter, go for it. But I like to have four walls around me at night and during stormy weather. And anyone who tries to change my attitude gets a simple response: Do Not Disturb.